49ers' Dante Pettis finally feels 'explosive' again after slow preseason

49ers' Dante Pettis finally feels 'explosive' again after slow preseason

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan spent a portion of his media session Thursday expressing his delight with this group of 49ers, insisting that the next 10 days, when he and general manager John Lynch trim the roster to 53 players, will be the most difficult yet.

“This is different than every other year where we’ve had to where getting down to this final 53 is going to be a lot more stressful for John and I than it has been in the past,” Shanahan said, referring to his first two seasons as coach.

“Usually, you’re excited to do it a little bit more, because we already know who it is and we’re hoping, we think there’s five guys on someone else’s roster that we can add to our 53. We know we have more than 53 players now and we’ve also got a lot of guys out, too.”

Shanahan seemed particularly pleased with the potential of his receiving corps, with its broad combination of sizes and shapes and experience levels.

“We’ve got some guys who need to understand and get more confident in the physical part of the game,” Shanahan said. “And then we’ve got some guys who have no issue with the physical part of the game. They’ve got to be able to chill out a little bit and quit trying to kill people and execute.”

Though Shanahan avoided identifying which players fit into which category, it has become apparent the coaching staff craves more assertiveness from second-year wideout Dante Pettis.

With rookies Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd going full blast, Pettis looks to be cruising. He seems to realize it and believes he has hit his personal restart button.

“I finally feel like I’m now getting back to how I should be playing -- explosive and consistent,” Pettis told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I got off to kind of a slow start, but I feel like I’m picking it up.”

Pettis’ ability is not in question. He inherited wheels from his father, Gary Pettis, who stole 354 bases over 10 big league seasons as a center fielder for four different teams. Young Pettis is an inch or two taller than his 6-foot father and outweighs him by 30 pounds.

What seems to be in question is Pettis’ commitment and ambition. He is a free spirit, with varied interests beyond football. He enjoys the game but doesn’t inject it into his veins as, say, Jerry Rice did  -- and as coaches like to see.

If that were the case, Pettis might already have secured a starting spot. He started last week at Denver and was targeted once, with Jimmy Garoppolo’s pass knocked down at the line of scrimmage.

The arc of Pettis’ career at the University of Washington shows improvement every season, from 17 catches as a freshman, to 30 as a sophomore, 53 as a junior and 63 in his senior season, during which he also returned four punts for touchdowns. His nine touchdowns on punt returns as a Huskie is the NCAA career record.

It also is evidence to the explosiveness referred to earlier. It was one of the factors that prompted the 49es to draft him in the second round (No. 44 overall) 16 months ago.

Pettis played 12 games (seven starts) as a rookie, recording 27 catches for 467 yards and five touchdowns. He battled injuries and was inactive for three games last October with a knee injury.

He also provided a glimpse of what’s possible last Dec. 2 at Seattle, with five catches, for 129 yards and two touchdowns. That’s the kind of production the 49ers are looking for from a starter.

[RELATED: Jimmy Garoppolo knows all eyes will be on him]

“You want to put good stuff on tape in the preseason,” Pettis said. “But the last game, I got like 10 plays. So, it’s not too big of a sample size to get a lot of good plays. But the coaches know that, too.

“Since I’m young, I have to show them.”

49ers, Sharks games not expected before November, health official says


49ers, Sharks games not expected before November, health official says

A South Bay health official suggested this week that an optimistic goal might be for the return of sporting events in mid-November.

Santa Clara County executive officer Dr. Jeffrey Smith told the county’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that games -- presumably high school, college and professional -- might not return to the South Bay for at least another seven months due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Smith said he did not expect there would be “any sports games until at least Thanksgiving, and we’d be lucky to have them by Thanksgiving. This is not something that’s going to be easy to do."

His comments were first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The project would mean no games in Santa Clara County for the 49ers, San Jose Sharks, Stanford University and San Jose State University.

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The 49ers will follow the lead of the NFL, as well as local and national health officials, a team official told NBC Sports Bay Area. The 49ers stance is consistent with a statement the club released on March 12.

“Our organization continues to collaborate with federal, state, and local health organizations, as well as our League office, to monitor the evolving developments regarding COVID-19,” the organization said. “Our intent is to make the most informed decisions regarding the health and wellness of all San Francisco 49ers and Levi's Stadium employees, patrons, and the community at large.”

Last week, NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash said the league is proceeding as if there will be a full 16-game schedule this season.

"All of our discussion, all of our focus, has been on a normal traditional season, starting on time, playing in front of fans, in our regular stadiums, and going through a full 16-game regular season and full set of playoffs," Pash said. "That's our focus."

The NFL has proceeded with the free-agent signing period and the upcoming 2020 draft despite travel restrictions and shelter-in-place guidelines for all league personnel. The NFL is also expected to release its full regular-season schedule around May 9.

[RELATED: Oklahoma WR Lamb could be 49ers' Sanders replacement]

But the Santa Clara County official told the Board of Supervisors he believes the risk of exposure to the coronavirus is not going away any time soon.

“There will definitely be individuals who will get sick,” Dr. Smith said. “And because there are individuals who get sick, there will be individuals who die after the order is released, unless we come up with a foolproof immunization, which is highly unlikely.”

Why Bobby Wagner is wrong Seahawks, not 49ers, are NFC West team to beat

Why Bobby Wagner is wrong Seahawks, not 49ers, are NFC West team to beat

The 49ers are reigning champions of their conference and division. They held a double-digit lead midway through the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV. Though the Kansas City Chiefs ultimately came back to win, that was only San Francisco's fourth loss of the season, including the playoffs. In those four defeats, the 49ers lost by a combined total of only 24 points -- nearly half of which resulted from the Super Bowl.

So, naturally, San Francisco would be the team to beat -- if not in the NFC, surely in the NFC West -- next season, right?

Not according to Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner.

During an appearance on ESPN's "First Take" on Wednesday, Wagner expressed significant confidence in his team, and made the case that the Seahawks should be the favorites in the NFC West.

"I feel really confident," Wagner said. "Obviously, Russell [Wilson] is an amazing quarterback; the things that he does on the field are just amazing. Like you said, he's one of the greatest quarterbacks in our game. We're confident on that side. I feel like from the defensive standpoint, there's a lot of room for improvement. We have to play a little bit better. I feel like if we make those changes and make those improvements, I still feel like we'll be the team to beat."

Still? Hmmm ...

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He's absolutely right about Wilson. The guy is a magician in the pocket -- and that's where you hope to contain him. Wilson has been a thorn in San Francisco's side ever since he entered the NFL, and there's arguably no more terrifying opposing QB to 49er fans. With Wilson having two deep targets in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, as well as a strong running game, there's ample reason for Wagner to be confident about Seattle's offense.

The defense, on the other hand? Well, he's correct that there's room for improvement. Plenty of it.

Last season, the Seahawks ranked 26th overall in total defense, and tied for the second-fewest sacks in the NFL. That was with standout defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney in tow, but all signs point toward him signing elsewhere this offseason in free agency. They re-signed defensive tackle Jarran Reed, traded for cornerback Quentin Dunbar and signed pass-rushers Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin, but other than that, Seattle hasn't really addressed the defensive side of the ball this offseason. Granted, the 2020 NFL Draft is right around the corner, but there's no guarantee they'll find any immediate contributors there.

Wagner is phenomenal, and fellow linebacker K.J. Wright is very solid, as well. But they both lived up to those reputations last season, and look how that worked out. Yes, the 49ers won the division by a matter of inches in Week 17, but Seattle also required overtime to beat a shorthanded San Francisco squad in Week 10, which was without star tight end George Kittle.

Though the 49ers have retained most of their own free agents, they did see wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders sign with the New Orleans Saints, and made the tough decision to trade defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts. Of course, San Francisco didn't lose Buckner for nothing -- like Seattle might with Clowney. The 49ers got the No. 13 overall pick in the upcoming draft in exchange, which should help them replace Buckner or Sanders, or address another position.

[RELATED: Oklahoma WR Lamb could be 49ers' Sanders replacement]

The Seahawks currently have five picks in the first four rounds of the 2020 draft, but they gave up a third-rounder to acquire Clowney last offseason, and their earliest selection doesn't come until No. 27 overall.

In addition to the No. 13 overall pick, the 49ers also possess No. 31.

Any team with Wilson behind center should feel confident. But last I checked, he doesn't play defense, and that, among other reasons, is why the 49ers -- and not the Seahawks -- are the team to beat in the NFC West.